Thursday morning federal headlines – Dec. 1, 2011

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Amy Morris discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The man in charge of tracking federal stimulus dollars is handing in his resignation to the White House today. The Washington Post is reporting Earl Devaney plans to retire at the end of December after 41 years of service at four federal agencies. Devaney has said he plans to retire to Florida with his wife and plans to look for part-time work as a consultant. Devaney heads the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. He leads a team of 50 auditors and investigators that track every single recipient of federal stimulus dollars, looking out for waste, fraud and abuse.
  • Some airports — and lawmakers — think private baggage screeners might be a good idea. USA Today reports that Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) wants more airports to join the TSA program that hires private screeners. Currently, 17 airports are using the private screeners. Blunt says it makes for healthy competition. But TSA Administrator John Pistole says there’s no proof that private companies operate better or cheaper than TSA. He is allowing the existing program to continue, because he says he wants to see if there is a clear advantage to the taxpayer and the traveling public. So far, he is not convinced. (USA Today)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department is on the defensive for its procurement practices. At issue is a provision in a 2006 law giving preference to veteran-owned companies. VA uses this preference in contracts awarded under set-aside programs, but not in full and open competitions. One contractor protested and the GAO upheld the protest. Lawmakers are now weighing in. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) says VA is evading its duty to veterans. The department has two weeks to decide how to proceed with the protested award. (Federal News Radio)
  • The federal pay freeze could get colder and longer. Senate Republicans are proposing an extension of the pay freeze to offset continuation of a payroll tax cut favored by Democrats and the White House. President Obama enacted the current two-year federal pay freeze in January. It was recommended by the Bowles-Simpson debt-reduction commission. The extension of the freeze was proposed by Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). It would add three years to the no-raise policy. And it would reduce the federal workforce by 200,000 through attrition. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal managers, management associations and unions will have two more years to make kumbaya. President Obama issued an executive order extending the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations through 2013. It was set to expire in a month. The White House calls the extension routine. But not much on the committee’s agenda has been done. A few weeks ago, it recommended ways to improve employee evaluation systems. But it’s still working on other objectives. One is to gage the value of union participation in non-bargaining decisions, such as how many workers to assign to a project. (Federal News Radio)
  • First dog Bo dominates Christmas decorations at the White House, the Associated Press reports. The Obamas’ Portuguese water dog is featured in decorations in nearly every room of the public tour. Bo likenesses range from miniature licorice pieces to a felt design nearly five feet tall. Several decorations honor military families. There’s a Gold Star Families Tree with ceramic gold ornaments. The 18-foot-tall balsam fir in the Blue Room is decorated with holiday cards created by military children, medals, badges and patches from all the military branches. The Red Room features fruit, foliage and flowers set in pepperberry- and cranberry-covered vases. There’s also a Bo replica made of buttons. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt is vowing to make changes to prevent tarmac delays this holiday, the Associated Press reports. Babbit says within the week FAA will begin including airports in national and regional conference calls with airlines several times a day to discuss problems affecting the flow of air traffic. The agency is also launching a hotline and a webpage for airports to alert the FAA and airlines of problems on the ground: like difficulties with snow removal, de-icing equipment or a shortage of available gates. The response comes after a diverted flight was trapped for more than seven hours in Hartford, Conn., stranding more than 100 passengers. Babbit says the incident could have been avoided with better communication among airlines, airports and air traffic controllers. (Federal News Radio)
  • There’s a new White House dashboard to help your agency keep track of high priority infrastructure projects. The webpage allows you to track the federal permitting and environmental review process for expedited projects. It’s part of the President Obama’s push to create jobs. He directed agencies to speed up the permitting and review process for infrastructure projects that will create jobs in a memo earlier this year. The dashboards will eventually expand to include additional projects, allowing the public to see the status of Federal permits and reviews for a variety of major projects, and telling them who to contact if it is delayed. (
  • The Pentagon’s Inspector General is weighing in on the BRAC move to the Mark Center. The report is expected to be released this week. But the Washingon Post reports that the IG believes the Army used bad traffic data to make its case, and failed to comply with state and federal standards in its proposals. With less than half of the transfers completed in September, the Virginia Department of Transportation found that traffic flow has already been reduced to minimal acceptable standards. (Washington Post)